In January 2020, I published an article called Six Cards That Mattered When I was a Kid. In it, I explained that I grew up in Baltimore during Cal Ripken Jr’s playing days. He was an absolute icon, and me and my friends all idolized him, and his 1982 Topps Traded rookie card. Even in the early 90s, none of us could afford it. To this day, Ripken is still my favorite player, and I have more of his cards than any other.
Cal finished his 21 year MLB career with 3184 hits and 431 home runs, all with the Baltimore Orioles. He was a 19x All-Star, 2x AL MVP, 8x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glove winner, the 1982 Rookie of the Year, a World Series Champion, and first Ballot Hall of Famer, garnering 98.53% of the vote.
In this article, I’ll cover ten reasons (and a few cards) why I was a Cal Ripken Jr collector as a kid and still am today.
1. The First Card I Idolized
I mentioned in the intro that the first card I remember dreaming of owning was the 1982 Topps Traded #98T Cal Ripken Jr. Childhood memories resonate.
2. Bringing Me Back to the Hobby
There was a confluence of events that brought me back into the hobby, but one of them was seeing the price of the 1980 WBTC #16 Cal Ripken Jr. Charlotte O’s card.
3. Ironman Racing
Cal Ripken’s nickname was “The Iron Man” for playing 2,632 consecutive games and surpassing Lou Gehrig’s record. I race Ironman and participate in a lot of endurance events.
4. Birth Year / Rookie Year
Cal’s rookie years was 1982, the year I was born.
5. Breaking the Mold
Cal Ripken played third base, and then more notably shortstop as a bigger, power-hitter breaking the mold in MLB, and I followed that legacy as a “not so fleet of foot” athlete in my baseball playing days as a 6’4″ infielder.
6. Growing up in Baltimore
I lived in the Baltimore suburbs from kindergarten through 6th grade, and all we did was follow Cal Ripken.
7. First Baseball Game
When you’re a sports nut, you probably remember your first sporting event. Mine was an Orioles game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
Cal played his entire career with one team, and I’ve spent my 16-year career with one company. I appreciate that commitment.
Ripken was a fundamentals guy. He studied batters and pitchers to overcome his limitations (speed). I also preach that hard work works.
I respect that Ripken was humble about his success. He once said:
I have talent, no doubt. My advantage is that I know the game well. The reason is that I grew up in it and had a good teacher in my father. I’m sure that whatever I am as a man and a ballplayer comes from the way I was raised. But am I a superstar? Oh, no. I don’t think I stack up with the great players in the league.Cal Ripken Jr., Macnow, p. 60
What was your childhood sports idol? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter.